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Religion and Identity in Germany Today

Doubters, Believers, Seekers in Literature and Film

Series:

Julian Ernest Preece, Frank Finlay and Sinéad Crowe

In German-speaking Europe, as in other parts of the western world, questions of religious identity have been discussed with sudden urgency since the attacks of ‘9/11’. Nowhere was this clearer than in the heated controversy over the building of a mosque in the city of Cologne, which is the subject of Michael Hofmann’s contribution to this volume. Turkish Germans have also found themselves defined by the religious background of their parents. For different reasons German Jews have faced pressure to reconnect with a religion that their forbears cast off sometimes more than a century ago. At the same time religious belief among the nominally Christian majority has been in retreat. These changes have generated poetry, drama, and fiction as well as a number of films by both well-known and emerging authors and filmmakers. Their works sometimes reflect but more often challenge debates taking place in politics and the media. The essays in this volume explore a range of genres which engage with religion in contemporary Germany and Austria. They show that literature and film express nuances of feeling and attitude that are eclipsed in other, more immediately influential discourses. Discussion of these works is thus essential for an understanding of the role of religion in forming identity in contemporary multicultural German-speaking societies. This volume contains eight chapters in English and six in German.

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MATTHIAS UECKER - Belief, Ritual and Identity: Performances of Jewishness in Contemporary German Cinema 25

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MATTHIAS UECKER Belief, Ritual and Identity: Performances of Jewishness in Contemporary German Cinema Jewishness – or rather: Jewish identity and culture and their relationship with mainstream German culture and history – have become a source of remarkable fascination in post-unification Germany. After almost forty years of cultural development in which Jews were either ignored or sidelined,1 the new cultural situation which emerged after 1989 provided a much more prominent position for the portrayal, analysis, and celebration of Jewish life in Germany. Jews came to be regarded as one of the minorities whose exist- ence was crucial for the emergence of a new German ‘normality’.2 As Stuart Taberner has shown, much of the resulting material is primarily concerned with the place of the Holocaust in a new, ‘normalised’ narrative of German history and attempts to draw either on nostalgia for the hybridity of Weimar culture and the crucial role of Jewish artists and intellectuals in its formation, or to reconnect with nineteenth-century assimilationism in which German Jews aspired for complete absorption into classical German culture.3 The products of this discourse are invariably ‘philo-Semitic’, highly sentimental, and primarily concerned with the stabilisation of a new German identity. 1 For an overview of the portrayal of Jewish characters in West German literature and drama cf. Pol O’Dochartaigh (ed.), Jews in German Literature since 1945: German-Jewish Literature? German Monitor 53 (2000). 2 On post-unification ‘normalisation’ debates cf. Stuart Taberner and Frank Finlay (eds), Recasting German Identity. Culture, Politics and Literature in the Berlin Republic (Rochester,...

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